Flying high in Colorado Springs

It’s been almost six years since I visited Colorado for a destination wedding in Breckenridge. My brother and his girlfriend moved to Colorado Springs in January so I was excited to check out a different part of the state and his new (for the indefinite future) home.

I had some time to explore my first two days while Greg worked. On the first day, I met up with a former coworker in Manitou Springs for a delicious breakfast at Good Karma Cafe before setting off for Garden of the Gods. The rock formations were stunning, but the trails were super packed (even midday on a Thursday…) making it hard to fully appreciate the views. After walking almost every trail in the park — which doesn’t take long — I popped into Colorado Mountain Brewery for some refreshing local beer.

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Normally the next day I would have sought out some more hiking, but my trip happened to fall during the Crossfit Open and I didn’t want to tax my body too much before tackling 18.3. Instead I borrowed Greg’s bike and rode downtown to check out some local shops and breweries. I’ve had Oskar Blues before but never visited one of their tasting rooms so that was fun. Phantom Canyon had a selection that catered to my tastes better though and I really enjoyed my flight there.

At this point, you may be wondering why I felt okay drinking a bunch of beer before 18.3 but not hiking. Or more realistically you’re wondering why I would even bother doing crossfit while on vacation (that’s a post for another day). This workout happened to include pull ups, which I’ve never been able to do, despite crossfitting for over five years. A little liquid courage couldn’t hurt while flailing my body at a rig for 12 minutes and hoping for the best.

Before my trip, I contacted Crossfit SoCo about dropping in. I hopped in the first heat of their Friday Night Lights style event and asked for a patient judge who would hold me strict to the standards. I really appreciated that they paired me with one of their coaches. I got through the first three movements then stared at the rig. After several failed attempts where I didn’t even get close, I told my judge Rob I should probably just give up. He took me to a lower rig and had me do some drills to work on my swing and build some confidence.

I stepped back up to the main rig, gave it all I had, and dropped down feeling defeated. But then he told me it was a good rep and I immediately started crying, having just got my first pull up ever. I ended up getting two more before the time cap. It was an incredible feeling and I will forever be grateful for the hospitality Crossfit SoCo showed me (and the awkward photos Greg captured). We celebrated after with a tasty meal at Front Range BBQ.

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On Saturday, we considered taking on the Manitou Incline (next time!) but opted for driving up Pikes Peak instead. The steep, curvy, narrow drive was more nerve-wracking than I expected but the views from the top were totally worth it. And there are donuts. Which was so random but perfect.

We capped off the day with a ridiculous meal at The Rabbit Hole. Honestly they could have served me carrots and I would have been happy (but not really because carrots are the worst). We sat in a section under the stairs surrounded by books and string lights. Is there anything more Melanie in this world??

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The elephant-shaped edible in the room
My personal experience with marijuana has been very, very limited. I hate smoking and I’m not good at it. I’ve had one brownie and didn’t know what I was doing. In short, I’m a total noob.

I was very interested to learn more about the dispensaries in Colorado and the laws are a little more nuanced than I realized. At the shop we visited, you essentially get a concierge service with a guy behind the counter explaining one on one what everything is, how much is in each product, the intended effect, etc. He wasn’t judging or condescending, just super knowledgeable and friendly. I purchased some peanut butter cups which were delicious and effective.

Overall it was a super positive experience and I appreciated knowing more about what I was putting into my body going into it. Also, they had some sleep aid products that I would have loved to try since I’m a super insomniac. Indiana just got Sunday alcohol sales though so we’re a long way off from ever seeing marijuana legalized here at home.

I’m sure I’ll get back to CO Springs at some point (#siblingsgiving) so let me know what else I missed!


Central Coast Cali

When I heard about the Sonoma County fires, my first thought was hoping everyone was okay, especially since I have coworkers who live in the area. My second thought was wondering what it meant for the trip I was planning with three friends 10 days later to Sonoma and Napa. We debated still going, but our VRBO understandably cancelled; their house was spared but it sounded like Glen Ellen had a lot of damage.

We tossed around the idea of going to Willamette County in Oregon. Changing our flights would have been pretty expensive though so we regrouped and looked at where we could go if we still flew into SFO. My main hope was that we could have a similar trip to what we planned: Wine, hiking, more wine. What we ended up with was that and more.

Day one: Cruising down the coast
Coming from landlocked Indianapolis, driving down Highway 1 was pretty spectacular. We headed to Santa Cruz to visit Bonny Doon’s tasting room, with a pit stop in town to stroll the boardwalk and kill some time. This quirky vineyard was a great way to start the trip. My favorite wine was a Cabernet Franc that was not only delicious but had a really cool label designed by artist David Choe.

We then ventured down to Monterrey where we had some of the best truffle fries ever in the cutest beer garden at Alvarado Street Brewery. Next up was a private one-hour sail in the bay, which was absolutely gorgeous. I could have sat on that sailboat all day but we had to move on to Carmel and check in to the Pine Inn.

Our original plan was to stay in a three-bedroom house with a pool and hot tub. I was a little apprehensive about four ladies piled into one room, but we lucked out with a super spacious suite that had a king bed and couch in the bedroom and a queen pullout sofa in a solarium-type room. There was even a third room with a dining table.


Day two: Santa Lucia Highlands
I kicked off the day with a 10-mile run along Carmel’s Scenic Road and up part of Highway 1. It was surreal watching the sun rise over the mountains and cast colors onto the water. It was also hilly as fuck but I’ll keep those miles close to my heart for awhile.

When we had to re-route, I was concerned about missing out on the Sonoma County wineries. I wasn’t sure what this new area would offer but it delivered and then some. We drove about an hour out and worked our way back toward Carmel with stops at four wineries:

  • Smith Family Wines: Started on a high note with an incredible view, the most adorable patio, and super friendly/knowledgeable staff. My favorite was a white blend from their Paraiso label.
  • Hahn Wines: We wanted to take in more of the scenery this time so instead of doing a tasting inside, we bought a bottle of the Rose to enjoy on the terrace. They have a cat on staff who was hanging out there so I was basically in love with this place.
  • Wrath Wines: This vineyard came recommended by a few friends but we weren’t super impressed. Part of that may be that we were getting hungry and they ran out of cheese plates… No favorites to note here, but we did manage to find a McDonalds on the way to the last winery. Pro tip: Bring food with you!
  • Odonata Wines: The one good thing that came from our stop at Wrath was the recommendation to visit Odonata. It was a smaller production with just three dudes on staff who all looked like they should own a brewery. They were friendly, passionate, and just the right amount of sassy for our group. I ended up shipping three bottles of the Cabernet Sauvignon home. Pro tip: Indiana laws are effed up so not everyone can ship to us. I should have checked a bag so I could bring back more.

Back in Carmel, we cracked open a bottle of the white blend from Paraiso then hit the town. The highlights: A ridiculous meal at Basil, rooftop drinks at Vesuvio, shooting the shit with Parker at Sade’s, and having a bunch of rich guys who were more than happy to flaunt their millions pay for our drinks at Barmel.


Day three: Hiking and more wine (because duh)
After a light breakfast at Belle, we drove down Highway 1, across the infamous bridge, and into Big Sur. Unfortunately a lot of the trails were closed but the park ranger guided us to Buzzards Roost which promised panoramic views for the low, low price of a steep (to us) climb. It was worth it though and we managed to beat the rush.

Since it had been a few hours without wine, we naturally spent the rest of the day hopping around tasting rooms in Carmel. There are probably at least 20 in town, which is both convenient and dangerous.

  • Scratch: These Cali wineries know the way to my heart: Wine + art. The tasting room doubles a gallery so you can sip your flight while strolling around.
  • Trio Carmel: We had a great time here with a server who was willing to go off the tasting menu and give us some fun pours, including a cider he designed the label for. My favorite though was an Albarino by La Marea, a style I had never had, and a unique red blend by Le P’tit Paysan.
  • Caraccioli Cellars: We had our first and only charcuterie plate here, which paired perfectly with a flight that focused on bubbly. I loved the Brut Cuvee and Brut Rose and was super bummed to find out they don’t ship to Indiana. Though that means they do distribute and I can keep an eye out for their label.
  • A.W. Shucks: Not a tasting room, but a dinner spot. I’m not a big fan of seafood but I did enjoy the crab cake and my trip-mates devoured the oysters (gag).


I will definitely get to Sonoma/Napa eventually but this trip worked out so well and we discovered a region I never knew had such great wineries. I would highly recommend this area for your next getaway!

Salt Lake City

When my friends Brooke and Ryan mentioned they were road tripping from Portland to Colorado, staying at national parks and forests along the way, I jumped at the chance to meet them in Salt Lake City and see Utah for the first time.

After the obligatory listen to Sal Tlay Ka Siti, I dove into researching SLC. This trip had a lot of moving parts, so I ended up creating more of a structured itinerary than I typically do. It worked out great though and I got to experience the best of SLC proper and the beautiful surrounding area.

Day 1: Olympic Park and Park City
I’ll admit to not watching much of the Winter Olympics outside of ice skating, but it was cool to visit Olympic Park. There’s a lot to do in the summer if you want to pay for it. I went the free route and hiked up the Iron Bill trail, around the Legacy Ridge/Loop trails, then back down via the extreme tubing trail.

Next, I headed over to Park City and refueled at Wasatch Brewery before taking the town lift up the mountain. It was my first time on a true ski lift and I have to admit I was more nervous than I thought I would be. The views were absolutely beautiful though so I tried to relax and take it all in.

On my hike back down, I intended to follow Jenni’s Trail. The trail markings were a little confusing though, so I’m not quite sure what route I actually took. I came out near the Legacy Lodge and had a short walk back to the main street area where I posted up at High West Distillery for a flight. Because of Utah laws, they can’t actually pour you the whole flight at once. I enjoyed mine two-by-two and bought a bottle of Campfire before heading back to SLC where I enjoyed a delicious meal with phenomenal service at Valter’s Osteria.

Day 2: SLC
I started my day with a three-mile run, making Utah the 20th state I’ve ran in. Staying in sweat mode, I drove over to the Greater Avenues area to access the Bonneville Shoreline Trail. If I thought the trail markers were confusing in Park City, they were nonexistent here. Luckily I had done some research and knew general landmarks to look for in order to climb toward a truly spectacular view of Salt Lake City and the Wasatch Mountains. I also hiked part of the trail near the Natural History Museum, though I turned around before ever finding the Living Room.

After another full day in the sun, I was ready for Red Rock Brewing and BTG Wine Bar. The Golden Halo at Red Rock was one of my favorite beers of the trip.

Day 3: Wasatch National Forest
Brooke, Ryan and their dog Charlie arrived in town and we headed out to Wasatch National Forest. We drove around checking out different sites and overlooks before settling in at Duchense Tunnel campground. The forest was full of stunning views, including the creek that our campsite backed up to.

Day 4: SLC
I would have loved to camp another night but everyone on my flight home was probably grateful my last night was spent in a hotel with a shower. We hopped around to The Green Pig (loved the rooftop), Twist (good cocktails and fun staff), and Squatter’s (more of that Utah 3.2% beer).


As much as I loved the beautiful views, I didn’t care for the vibe of Salt Lake City itself. I would recommend that as your point to fly in/out of, but suggest spending most of your time in Park City and surrounding areas.


California Love

I had the opportunity to go to San Francisco for a work conference last week. It was my first time in California so I took full advantage and tacked on a few extra days to see all the city had to offer. Unfortunately it rained most of my trip but I crammed in about as much as I could and had a great time!

The tourist checklist

  • Chinatown – So many shops! I got a beautiful purse at one shop and also stopped in the Golden Gate Bakery to try dan tat (egg tart). It was a little too custard-like for me but the flaky crust was delish.
  • Lombard Street – Obligatory photo opp but honestly not that exciting.

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  • Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39 – Lots of restaurants and shops to wander through. At the end of the pier is a pretty unique site, which I captured on video.
  • Cable Car Museum – Free and really interesting! You can learn about how cable cars work and see the system that powers all the lines in the city. (Watch a video here)
  • Muir Woods – Thankful for my friend who lives in SF and drove out here with me! We wanted to do a 10-mile hike but it was so rainy and misty that we ended up doing less than four. Still, it was a pretty amazing hike among the ridiculously tall trees.



  • Alcatraz – The crazy rain added an element of eeriness to touring the rock. I took the guided walk up to the cellhouse listening to a ranger talk about all the escape attempts. In the cellhouse, I did the audio tour which was incredibly well done. It’s narrated by four officers and four prisoners talking firsthand about their Alcatraz experience. Including ferry time, the entire trip took about three hours.

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The eats

  • Urban Tavern – Juicy steak and trendy décor. What more do you need out of a restaurant?
  • Mikkeller Bar – A must visit for craft beer lovers! Diverse tap list and great food to pair with it, too.
  • The Franciscan – In my attempts to overcome my pickiness, I am tip toeing into the world of seafood. I enjoyed the crab alfredo and the view of the Alcatraz lighthouse in the distance.
  • Bread & Cocoa – Quick, tasty pit stop for lunch near the Financial District.
  • Tony Tutto Pizza – Stopped here in Mill Valley after hiking at Muir Woods. The smell of bread is overwhelming when you walk in. I started drooling immediately. Note: Cash only.
  • Boudin – Picked up a loaf of sourdough bread to bring back with me.

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The hills

  • I did a four-mile out and back on the Bay Trail from Hyde Street Pier toward Crissy Field. The trail is perfect for runners! Wide with separate lanes for bikers and an awesome view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • My second run was probably the most challenging I’ve ever done. I ran from the hostel to the Lyons Street steps and back (5.3 miles). I thought the stairs would be the craziest part but the streets on that side of town were insane. I was hunched over, huffing and puffing just trying to keep moving. The payoff was a great view of the bay and some super fancy houses from the top of the stairs.

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The digs

  • Marriott Marquis – Stayed here during the work-sponsored portion of the trip. Great location, comfy bed and friendly staff.
  • USA Hostels – Moved here for the Melanie-sponsored portion. Very affordable alternative to the pricy SF hotels. I stayed in a four-person room with an en suite bathroom. Awesome staff, great lounge area, planned activities every day and pancakes for breakfast! It was a great experience.

I covered a lot in my short time but there’s so much more to see in SF. What did I miss? Share your favorite spots in the comments!

Woods Go West: Portland

People love to compare Portland and Seattle. When I got back from our trip, everyone wanted to know which city was my favorite but I don’t think it’s a fair comparison. There are things to love about each city individually but I do think Portland dominates in two areas: craft beer and public transportation. You’ve read all about our Seattle adventures so let’s get into what Portland had to offer.

First up: the beer. According to the Oregon Brewers Guild, there are around 150 breweries in Oregon. We visited Deschutes, Lucky Lab, Sasquatch, Double Mountain, Hair of the Dog and Widmer Brothers. The line up at each was great but the clear standouts for me were Double Mountain’s Kolsch and Widmer’s Green & Gold Kolsch (not that I have a type or anything…). If you are at all into craft beer, you will not be disappointed with your options in Portland. Also of note: Sasquatch and Widmer had super delicious food.

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One of my favorite days took us around the Mount Hood Scenic Loop, with stops at Multnomah Falls, Hood River and the Timberline Lodge. The falls are about 45 minutes away from Portland. We took the Historic Columbia River Highway for a few miles and it made for a beautiful drive. At the falls, we hiked a loop that took us to the top of Multnomah Falls, past a few other waterfalls and back down with awesome views of the Columbia River.

From there, we drove about 30 miles over to Mount Hood to stop at Double Mountain Brewery for lunch. The truffle shuffle pizza was legit! And the kolsch I mentioned was perfectly refreshing after the hike. After refueling, we continued the loop around to Timberline Lodge. We kept wondering when we would see Mount Hood but our patience paid off. Driving from the direction we did, the mountain suddenly appears out of nowhere. We got a closer view at the Timberline Lodge and then headed back to the city.

There were several other spots on the scenic loop we could have stopped at with more time. If (when) I go back, I’d love to camp out and spend more time hiking. And seeing a concert at The Gorge is on the list too.

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Portland also has some really good food. Of course there’s the obligatory pilgrimage to Voodoo Doughnut, which definitely lived up to the hype. We got lucky and didn’t have to wait very long. My favorite was the dirt doughnut, which had oreos and vanilla frosting. For lunch one day, we hit up Blue Plate which was ridiculously tasty. It’s a small spot so be prepared to wait for a table. Another standout was Piazza Italia in the Pearl District.

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Like Seattle, we tried to fit in as much as we could in the time we had. We didn’t get to everything but here are a few other highlights from PDX:

  • International Rose Garden and Japanese Garden – the Rose Garden is free but there is a small admission fee for the Japanese Gardens. Both were very relaxing to stroll through!
  • Timbers Stadium – we weren’t able to tour it but we did get some Timbers gear.
  • OMSI – I went in with low expectations but we enjoyed it
  • Punch Bowl – a fun happy hour spot with bowling and ski ball

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What’s on your must-see list in Portland? Comment below!

Woods Go West: Seattle

Where do I even begin when recapping Woods Go West, the 10-day trip my brother and I went on recently? I have visited my brother in Asheville for Thanksgiving the past couple years but we’ve always talked about doing a real vacation. Seattle and Portland were high up on our lists (beer…mountains…beer) and when we realized we had friends in both cities, it was a no brainer. The trip was one amazing experience after another and I was so glad to be with my best friend. As he put it: “hell of a trip sister, hell of a trip.”

Before I get into the highlights, let’s talk logistics. We spent the first two nights in Seattle, staying with my friends Gretchen and Rich. Then we took the train to Portland and spent four nights there, staying with my friends Brooke and Ryan. A train ride back to Seattle rounded out the trip and we stayed with Greg’s friend Morgan for the last three nights. It was a lot but we knew we wanted to experience both cities and we are incredibly grateful to our friends for helping us do that in a budget-friendly way.

During the first part of our Seattle adventures, we went to a Mariners game and a Sounders game. The Sounders game was hands down one of the best sporting events I’ve ever been to. The match was against their big rivals: the Portland Timbers. It’s one of the biggest soccer games in the U.S. and the 67,000+ fans who filled the stadium proved that. Before the game, we took part in the march to the stadium (video), where thousands of fans walk about a mile chanting, raising their scarves and setting off smoke bombs. The atmosphere was unreal and kept going once we were in the stadium where the Timbers fans were representing hardcore in their section. NFL is my main sport but I was completely enthralled by the match. If you were bored at this game, you’re doing it wrong.

March to the stadium View from our seatsView from our seatsView from our seats 

A trip to Seattle wouldn’t be complete without hitting the typical tourist spots. We lucked out on the day we visited the Space Needle and had perfectly clear skies that gave us an amazing view. The Chihuly Garden of Glass is a must-see while you are at the Needle; Chihuly’s work is absolutely stunning. We also visited the Experience Music Project which had some cool memorabilia and a fun studio where you could try out different instruments. And of course we had to stop by Pike’s Place Market where we sampled fresh cheeses, seafood, olive oils and other delicacies. The famous gum wall was so gross but made for a cool visual.

the needle View from the needle Chihuly Gum wall

Outside of the Sounders game, the biggest highlight of Seattle for me was Mount Rainier. Rather than hike on the actual mountain, our friend Morgan took us on the Naches Peak Loop Trail. The view of the mountain from the trail is gorgeous and breathtaking. We also did a short but steep detour down to Dewey Lake which was incredibly serene. It’s a bit of a drive to Mount Rainier from Seattle but it’s completely worth it.

Dewey Lake Dewey lake   Mount Rainier Mount Rainier

One of the perks of staying with friends is getting to experience the city like a local. On the last day of our trip, we took Morgan’s boyfriend’s boat out on Lake Washington. We lounged, rafted up with friends on another boat and did happy hour Seattle style, which means docking at Iver’s Salmon House and sitting on the deck overlooking Lake Union and the Space Needle. It was a beautiful day and the perfect way to wind down from our nonstop adventures.

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I could go on forever but you get the point. Seattle is awesome and there’s so much to do. In an effort to keep this blog post from being a full length book, I’ll just give a quick shout out to some of the other spots we visited:

  • List – amazing tapas but not the best service
  • Via Tribunali – crazy good pizza
  • Judkins St. Café – great brunch
  • Standard Brewing – nice local spot in the Central District with solid beer
  • Pyramid Brewing – convenient spot before the Mariner’s game but it wasn’t my favorite
  • Elysian Brewing – I enjoyed my beer if for no other reason than the name: “The Men’s Room”
  • I ran on the Elliott Bay Trail and the I-90 Trail. Both had awesome views of the Puget Sound and Lake Washington, respectively.

Elliott Bay Trail Standard Brewing I-90 Trail Via Tribunali

We just scratched the surface of Seattle on our trip. Did we miss your favorite spot? Comment below and let me know what you love to do in the Emerald City!

Be sure to check out our Portland highlights too!

Vacation Destination: Asheville

This year, I continued the tradition of visiting my brother Greg in Asheville for Thanksgiving. During my visit last year, I came to appreciate Asheville for the truly eclectic city it is. After another great trip, I’m even more convinced this is truly a destination with something for everyone.

Me and Greg in Saluda

What to eat

I’m a second generation, born and raised chocoholic so naturally I’m going to love a place called the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. Tucked away on a side street downtown, this local favorite serves up a variety of truffles, pastries, brownies, cookies and more. The space can get crowded so grab something to go and walk a few blocks over to Pritchard Park to enjoy your treats.

For the ultimate local food experience, Tod’s Tasties, in Historic Montford, is a must. I know, it sounds like a strip club. I had my doubts when my brother suggested it but the food was, well, tasty! Add a side of tots to whatever you order; the seasoning was crazy good.

Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria brings together two of my great loves in one awesome setting. We hung out on the second level – a bar with pool tables, darts and 19 taps of local and regional craft beers. Great food. Great beer. What more could you ask for?

We also indulged in one of Asheville’s finer dining options, Fig Bistro. Our main courses, hanger steak and farfalle bolognese, were excellent, but we could have stopped after our appetizer, pommes frites made with truffle oil, and been completely satisfied. We’ve had our fair share of pommes frites but I honestly don’t think any have compared to Fig’s. Normally I would ask for aioli sauce but these fries were amazing on their own.

Tod's Tasties     Barley's Taproom & Pizzeria     Fig Bistro - hanger steak     Fig Bistro - farfalle bolognese

What to do

You’ve probably figured out by now that I love craft beer. I imagine the gates of heaven look something like the entrance to Bruisin’ Ales, who coined the phrase “beerlanthropy,” the concern for the welfare and advancement of beer. They stock more than 1,000 brews from around the world. Block out some time to take in the entire selection before making your purchase.

Bruisin' Ales

One of the things we didn’t get around to last year was visiting Grove Park Inn. Its spa, golf course, restaurants and spectacular view of the city make it one of the premiere choices for out-of-towners. We didn’t factor in the holiday crowd as we made our way to the lounge for a drink. Our experience was fine but I’d love to go back when it’s less hectic.

And of course it wouldn’t be a trip to Asheville without some quality time in the mountains. This year we hiked in DuPont State Forest, where they filmed Hunger Games and Last of the Mohicans. This is a great spot to get the most bang for your buck, so to speak (there is no park admission fee). The trails are moderate and you can see three waterfalls within a three to four mile stretch.

View a slideshow of pictures from DuPont State Forest here.

Where to stay

Imagine sitting in a rocker on the porch of a cabin overlooking the mountains. The sun is shining, you’ve got a cold, local beer in hand and it’s just you and your family on 40 acres of land.

This was my reality on the actual day of Thanksgiving. My brother’s friend invited us to join his family and spend the night in their spare cabin in the mountains. Through their business, Meanwhile Back in Saluda, his family rents out the cabin and teaches a variety of classes to guests and people in the community. It’s the perfect place to escape without being too far away from Asheville proper. I loved our time in Saluda and I’m thankful Casey and his family let us join them for the holiday.

View a slideshow of pictures from Meanwhile Back in Saluda here.

Still not convinced Asheville should be your next vacation destination? Read up on my recommendations from last Thanksgiving.